Tag Archives: reading

Little Camino

The past month has been weighed down with money worries, career anxiety, fear for the future and feelings of insecurity. This in turn has had an effect on my self-esteem; how I see myself and how I feel when I’m with others.

The main outcome of a much-needed business coaching session this week was that I need to love myself. And yesterday, I had another revelation.

I’ve been depending on external factors to make me feel okay. I’ll be good enough if and when… I’ll relax when I’m earning more money. I’ll be worthy when I have a flourishing business. I’ll feel secure when my boyfriend does and says all the right things.

However, the reverse should be true. I need to feel good first, anyway, irrespective of anything or anyone.

I have to love myself just because. I must stop placing conditions on my self-acceptance.

And I definitely need to stop waiting for someone else to make me feel good. Because that strategy is destined to fail. Catastrophically.

It’s guaranteed to foster pressure, disappointment and resentment. Feelings become extremely precarious. One action, one word, one thought has the power to tear everything asunder.

What I want to do now is come back to me. That creative, happy individual who knows herself, and who has a full and balanced life with work and friends and hobbies. Who now also has a boyfriend who’s gorgeous and good and full of love and enthusiasm.

But just because I’m now in a relationship doesn’t mean I should lose myself in it. An intimate relationship is actually an opportunity to find myself more deeply than ever before.

I need to live my life. Do the things that give me energy and inspiration. Be there for myself.

I have to stop abandoning myself whenever things go “wrong”. I must remember my worth, see my light, and know that I’m deserving of love and all the good things in life. I need to focus on all the positives that are right there in front of me.

Today is Thursday and I have the day off. Part of me feels ashamed that I’m not busier, that I’m not a part of “normal” working society. Then I remember that I have to stop rejecting myself.

“What’s the most loving thing I could do for myself today,” I ask.

An image of walking in nature flashes before me.

“The sea,” I think excitedly.

“Healthy, delicious food and coffee. And a good book,” I add.

I’ve come up with the perfect recipe: I’ll hike along the coastline from Bray to Greystones, have lunch in one of my favourite restaurants The Happy Pear, then wander back to Bray.

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Most “normal” people work on a Thursday so I go alone. And that’s kind of perfect. My very own mini-Camino.

I don’t listen to music and I put my phone on silent. The weather goes from windy to sunny to rainy.

As I walk, I start thinking. Then I realise that I’m feeling bad. I observe this with interest.

Nothing has actually happened in the here and now and I’ve still managed to make myself feel bad. When instead I could be enjoying the beautiful views of aquamarine waters leaning into the horizon, mountain and birds and yellow furze. I could be breathing in the fresh air. Appreciating this time, this peace, this space…

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So today I choose to come back to me, to stay with me, to love myself and to make myself happy. Because when I’m present to myself in this moment all is right in my world.

Today I take this big lesson from my little Camino back to my working life and to my romantic relationship but most importantly to my relationship with myself.

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Images: Author’s Own

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Energy

Today, I decide to spend the whole day chilling out at home. I have a lie-in, I meditate, I eat breakfast.

I reply to a few text messages. I attempt to get cheap car insurance. I have lunch. I read emails. I watch Whip It for the second time.

By four pm, I’m agitated. What to do next? I could watch another movie. What a privilege to have the time and space to do so. I could read.

But I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. I’d probably feel better if I went for a walk. It’s sunny outside. I’d feel less guilty if it was raining.

I could follow a yoga class on YouTube. But I just don’t want to.

In the past, when I suffered spells of depression, I spent long periods in my room. I stayed in bed. I binged on junk food and mind-numbing box sets.

As a result, I became even more depressed and self-hating. Then, I definitely didn’t want to face the world because I felt so ugly and useless. Now, a part of me is scared that something similar could happen again.

For the past while, I’ve made sure to exercise every day. I get out of the house. I’m sociable. I’m busy. I work. I write blogs.

What I’ve learned from Chinese Medicine is that, when we don’t move enough, our energy becomes stagnant and we experience pain and fatigue. When enough energy doesn’t go to the head, we can feel depressed. That’s why it’s important to move our bodies and to receive energy treatments such as acupuncture.

However, I’d been moving my body to such an extent that I’d injured myself several times and I was exhausted. Following an acupuncturist’s advice, I haven’t exercised in four days.

Last night, I met a friend who’s home from abroad. She told me that I’m looking really well. I wanted to work out immediately. But I didn’t. Instead, I noted this reaction and I was okay with it.

For a change this Saturday, I haven’t arranged any coffee dates. I haven’t driven to the gym. I haven’t walked or yoga’d or even ventured outside the house. Instead, I drink hot beverages in bed, bite my fingers and click on Facebook for something to do.

The energy is rising. I usually shake it off or stuff it down. I’m not used to doing nothing. I don’t think I can do nothing.

I want to pump iron and dance and make love with aggression. I want to race through the countryside and bomb into the ocean. I want to laugh and cry and scream with abandon. I want to explode all this energy into my writing. I want to squeeze all my blackheads and peel off my skin. I even consider rejoining Tinder.

But I don’t do any of these things. I stay in my room, turn my phone on silent and sit on my meditation cushion. I bounce a little and rock back and forth. I start composing this blog post.

Then, I realise that there’s something about this energy that makes me want to burn it off. It doesn’t matter how. It just has to be released.

Suddenly, images of yogis and monks come to mind. People who have trained themselves to sit with this energy and allow it to build.

Humans who have managed to transcend these egoic and bodily urges to sex and spend, do and distract. They harness this energy and use it to connect with something bigger than all of this. To be present to all that is rather than losing themselves in all that they wish they were.

There’s nothing wrong with making the most of this creative energy. Artists splash it across canvasses to form beautiful masterpieces. Musicians and singers unleash it with passion. Champions triumph. New lives enter the planet.

And the rest of us mere mortals make sure to stay just ahead of it so we don’t have to think or feel too much. We move forward, we move forward, we move forward. We don’t want to get caught.

Most of the time, when I write an article, I’ve reached some sort of conclusion. I’ve come up with a positive slant. I’ve learned something. I’ve let go of something else. I’ve made myself feel better.

Today, I don’t transcend body, mind or ego. I sit on that meditation cushion for 10 minutes before moving the cushion in front of the laptop and vomiting all over WordPress. I feel a little bit better. I guess I’m still ahead.

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Images: favim.com

The Inner Family

I’m currently rereading Anodea Judith’s excellent book Eastern Body, Western MindThis morning, I completed an exercise on the Inner Family that I’m going to share with you.

Anodea Judith suggests making a list of the various parts of yourself. You might include the inner child, the clown, the achiever, the lover, the critic, and so on. In my case, I listed the lost child, the inner child, the lover, the romantic, the fearful one, and the warrior.

Next to each name on the list, write a few words describing how you perceive this part of yourself.

For example, I could describe the inner child as playful, curious or innocent. The lost child might be scared and alone. The lover is open, present and sensual. The romantic believes in love. The fearful one anticipates that bad things will happen. And the warrior is stunning, strong and skilled.

Now, write down what you think each part wants. My inner child wants to experience. The lost child wants to be loved. The lover wants to make love. The romantic wants to connect. The fearful one wants peace. And the warrior wants to live.

Ask yourself how often these parts succeed in getting what they want. How realistic are their desires? And what can be done to bring them into wholeness?

In order to bring the various parts of myself into wholeness, I can connect with people, including myself. I can be open to relationship and to love. I can meditate, rest and be still. I can be in nature, surround myself with beauty, and go on adventures. Using all of my senses, I can make love with life every single day. I can be present, really live, relax, allow and enjoy.

The final part of this exercise is to look at who relates to whom. For instance, does the critic inhibit the artist? Or does the clown entertain the sad inner child?

I realise that the parts of myself that I listed seem to go in pairs. The loving, playful inner child is the lost child’s reassuring companion. The confident lover and the dreamy romantic are in perfect partnership. And the warrior protects the fearful one and makes her feel safe.

This is an interesting exercise. Try it and let me know how you get on.

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Help Me!

I’m really enjoying a blog called Help Me! by Marianne Power. This brave, honest, insightful and laugh-out-loud-funny blog deals with Marianne’s gutsy challenge of reading (and really following) one self-help book per month for a year.

So far, I’ve read all of her posts on Get the Guy by Matthew HusseyFeel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and Money, A Love Story by Kate Northrup.

I’ve lapped up Marianne’s hilarious and sometimes emotional tales of chatting up strangers, jumping out of a plane, doing stand-up comedy (that’s about the WORST thing I could think of having to do), posing naked, attending a naked yoga class, tackling her finances, walking on fire, and surrounding herself with plenty of positive post-it affirmations.

I can really relate to Marianne as she courageously reveals her secrets, fears and insecurities. And for each book Marianne has explored, I’ve learned something that I’m going to incorporate into my own life.

In Get the GuyMatthew Hussey recommends seeing yourself as a “High-Value Woman”. This means knowing that you deserve to be treated with respect and only accepting good behaviour from men.

The last guy I had a thing with was tall, attractive and young. He hated his job, drank a lot, and had very little interest in getting to know me. And still I continued to text him. Until I saw him with another woman.

I felt yucky for a few moments until I remembered that I too was open to meeting somebody else. I wasn’t kidding myself. This relationship was going nowhere fast.

Though this scene wasn’t what I would have wished for, I was grateful to have witnessed it because it gave me the kick up the arse that I needed. To move on. To really be open to something better. And to finally understand that I am a High-Value Woman. Another, more suitable man will be lucky to get to know me.

I used to worry that asking for what I wanted and believing that I deserved to be treated well would come across as needy, high-maintenance or even crazy. Now, I don’t care if that’s how some men might perceive me. The right ones will know different.

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In Feel the Fear And Do It AnywaySusan Jeffers insists that we do one thing each day that scares us because then we’ll know that we’re growing and moving forward in life. She explains that the more we feel the fear and do it anyway, the easier it becomes and the more empowered we feel. She suggests repeating the affirmation: “I can handle it.” 

Marianne found this month exhausting but also exhilarating. She reports feeling more alive. Although she felt terrified, she did it anyway, and her life became infinitely more interesting and exciting.

The next book Marianne took on was Money, A Love StoryI thought: “Boring!” However, after perusing her posts, I see how telling my initial response was. One of my beliefs around all things finance is that it’s boring and I’d rather put my attention on something, anything, else. That is why, according to Kate Northrup, my finances are not something I can boast about. Yet…

This book also makes a connection between how you value yourself and how much abundance you have in your life. Turns out valuing yourself is essential in this self-help business. It sounds obvious but it’s amazing how little we show ourselves this value.

One exercise Kate suggests is to list three things you value about yourself each day. Most days, I focus on what I’m grateful for, which really lifts my mood. From now on, I’m going to include self-value in my practise. Today, I value my talent for writing, my discipline in exercising, and my ability to make new friends.

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Last night, I read Marianne’s first post on Rejection TherapyThis isn’t a book but a self-help game devised by Jason Comely. There is one rule to this game and that is to get rejected once a day by another human being.

One of my biggest fears is of rejection. Because getting rejected confirms that I’m not good enough to be accepted, wanted or loved. As Marianne explains, we’re hardwired to fear rejection because, “historically, our chances of survival were dramatically increased if we stayed with the group, which is why being shunned in any way – even snubbed at a party – can feel fatal.”

At a concert a few weeks back, one of my good friends asked me if I still found it hard to chat up men. “Yes,” I gulped as I took a quick swig of cider.

“Well then,” she announced with a glint in her eye. “Your challenge is to chat up one guy before we leave.” 

In shocking news, I readily accepted my friend’s challenge. I wanted to get over this limiting fear. And I had just spent an evening seeing how effortless it was for my friend to strike up conversations with men.

So I marched over to stand beside a man who was watching the band alone. And so I stood. I too looked at the band. Every so often, I glanced sideways at him. I was thinking too much.

What will I say? I could ask him if he’s enjoying the music. But that’s a stupid question. Of course he’s enjoying the music! He’s here alone, enjoying the music. If I were my friend, I’d have chatted him up already. 

Then, a girl to his right started chatting to him. Look how easy it is! When they stopped speaking, I glanced sideways at him again. He was wearing a coat. At an indoor concert!

“Are you not roasting?” I blurted out.

“Not tonight,” he answered.

Em…

“Where’s your coat?” he wondered.

“In the cloakroom. It’s free and it’s just down the stairs.”

Yes, a fascinating conversation. And I decided I didn’t fancy him after all. But I did it. And I was proud of myself. I knew that it could only get easier.

Last night, after reading about Rejection Therapy, I decided to take on this horrifying challenge for the rest of the month. I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered my promise to myself. My heart thumped faster inside my chest. But I also felt excited.

Like Marianne Power, I’m really living. And in Susan Jeffers words, no matter what, “I’ll handle it.” 

I’ll let you know how I get on…

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Images: favim.com

Other People

Yesterday, I texted a few of my like-minded friends to share my most recent awareness. The importance of other people.

Relationships (with a partner, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances) accelerate our growth and teach us more about ourselves than all the spiritual retreats, self-help books, and hours of meditation and counselling ever could.

Other people serve as mirrors. They reflect back to us how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we’re holding about life.

Every single person who enters our lives is there for a reason – to show us all the barriers we’ve placed around ourselves. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can remove them and open ourselves to love.

In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Loveshe writes about the two main emotions we experience – love and fear. Fear closes our hearts. Love opens us up to an easier, brighter, more wonderful world.

Up until recently, I had assumed that I preferred to be alone. I’d spend most evenings on my own, reading, writing, and watching TV. I walked alone, jogged alone, cycled alone. I meditated and did yoga alone. I took myself for coffee. I wandered alone in nature and took pictures. I holidayed in the west of Ireland. Alone.

I’m proud of my independence and I’m content in my own company but sometimes a stray pang of loneliness manages to slip through my carefully constructed armour. I realise now that I was confusing strength with a refusal to budge out of my comfort zone.

I really believed that I did better at life when I was single. Romantic relationships seemed to blaze into my world. They were quick and exciting and dangerous.

They were so out of my control that I feared I’d be engulfed in their flames. Then they died out, leaving me to tend to my burns.

I missed the warmth and beauty of relationships but I also felt blessedly relieved to be alone again. Alone, I was in control.

My longest romantic relationship was with my now ex-husband. Everything since then has never made it past the four-month mark.

I led what I thought was a balanced life. I had oceans of time to work on myself. I grow more when I’m single, I convinced myself.

And I’m glad of the time and space I’ve had to heal and to flourish. I agree that one must love oneself and have a full and happy life before one is ready to enter into a healthy relationship.

The thing is, I kept waiting for one (i.e. little old me) to become perfect, conscious and enlightened. I forgot that this life is a journey. And on this arduous yet rewarding adventure, we’re constantly learning, evolving and recalibrating.

It’s nice to share some of that journey with our fellow travellers who can also feel lost and who are also searching for meaning. And there’s more laughter and intimacy to be had on a path walked with more than one set of feet.

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After living alone for four years, I now have two housemates. I’m also spending more time with my fabulous friends. And I love meeting new people. How different we are fascinates me. How similar we are humbles me.

I understand now that living involves other people. For what is a life without company, support, affection and passion?

Other people highlight the areas we need to work on so that we can peel off yet another bullet-proof layer. It’s so much lighter and freer to let go of these heavy burdens that weigh us down and close us off. But it’s scary to be so exposed, so vulnerable.

I know that I have difficulty letting people in. Asking for help and believing I deserve to have my needs met is a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

Communication is also an area I’m working on. Recently, I detected a pattern of mine. When the going gets tough, my instinct is to bolt. To get out that door and never come back. But where’s the maturity in that? Where’s the learning, the growing, the compassion? Where is the love?

Other people have an amazingly frustrating knack of triggering the emotional reactions that I used to resist and get angry about. Now, when someone does or says something that provokes me to feel hurt, annoyed or defensive, I remember to breathe into it.

I feel grateful for this issue that I need to deal with. I look at my feelings about the incident, which leads to an understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. Then, I let go and bring myself back to the present moment.

This is a very new practise for me, by the way, but it’s a revelation! I highly recommend it.

Today, I’m more open than ever before. This translates into a heightened enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of beauty, and more fun, peace and connection.

I am, thankfully and in Melody Beattie’s words, codependent no more. Nor am I locked in a distant land of me, myself and I.

I’m travelling on this awe-inspiring path called life. And it’s rich with billions of souls from whom I can learn so much, and with whom I can share a luminous journey.

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Images: Favim.com

To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

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The Naked Eye

I enter my friend’s bedroom in search of a particular book. I know what the book looks like and it isn’t here. My friend comes in and finds it instantly.

It has been lying, face down, on her bedside locker. I had been looking for the green front cover that was so familiar to me so I hadn’t recognised its white back cover.

We muse over this. When I’m searching for something, I presume to know how it should look. So I’m not open to seeing it when it appears in a different form.

A while later, I want to read up on something else. My friend informs me that the book I need should be in the bookcase in the hall. I methodically scan the books on the shelves. My internal dialogue revs up.

The book is probably right here but you can’t even see it. You’re so unobservant. In your line of work, you should be more astute. And you’re a writer. Come on, Sharon. Find the book!

I give up. My friend suggests that the book could be on her bedside locker. I open the door, turn to the left and bend towards the locker. I am so focused on my task that I don’t notice what’s right in front of me. An entire human being!

My friend’s 18-year-old son stands facing me, with a small towel wrapped around his waist. I straighten immediately, tell him how sorry I am, and flee the room. My friend and I collapse with laughter when I describe what’s just happened.

I have been berating myself for not seeing what’s right in front of me. So it takes something big (a scantily clad human being) to show me the humour in it all. I can enjoy the moment and laugh at myself.

Last week, I started a course. On the first night, I was surprised at how quickly everybody opened up to one another. My fellow classmates were great speakers and excellent storytellers. I remained silent and listened with interest.

We broke for tea. Everyone continued chatting. I still hadn’t spoken. I noticed people looking at me curiously.

And I was okay with that. I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me. I understood that sometimes it takes me a little longer to feel comfortable around strangers.

Towards the end of the evening, I spoke up. I hadn’t rushed myself. This was the right time for me.

It may have taken me thirty-four years but I now accept myself for all of my strengths, struggles and idiosyncrasies. I accept my introverted tendencies. I accept the ditzy part of myself. I accept my inner critic.

And I accept that sometimes I’m so lost in thought that I don’t notice what’s right in front of me. Even if it is a half-naked man.

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laughingmom.com